“Nobody’s ever held accountable,” laments Black Voters Matter co-founder LaTosha Brown. “We’re seeing the same old problems that our community has seen in the past, which we know are all forms of voter suppression,” she notes during her conversation with investigative journalist and author Greg Palast. The interview was broadcast as part of a Facebook LIVE event also featuring Noam Chomsky and Amy Goodman to launch Palast’s new book, How Trump Stole 2020. “They’re constantly skimming votes in different ways,” says Brown. “We’ve got to hold people accountable… And there’s some people that have got to, not only be held accountable in the sense of being put out of office, but there are some people that should face some charges.”
Greg Palast: What is black voters matter?
LaTosha Brown: Black Voters Matter is a power building organization. It was co-founded by myself and Cliff Albright in 2016. We wanted to create an organization that actually helped to build capacity of black-led grassroots groups on the ground to really be able to build power and not just around elections, but around issues and those things that are important in our community and advance our community, and policy and issues in our community.
Palast: You’re in Atlanta, right?
Palast: Are you in Atlanta right now?
Brown: I am. I’m back in Atlanta. I’m based in Atlanta. I’m a native of Alabama, but I’m based in Atlanta and Black Voters Matter’s working in 11 states across the country, very deeply. But we also work in certain cities. For example, we’re working in St. Louis, we’re doing some work in Minneapolis, we’re working in Houston, but we work very deeply on a statewide level in 11 states around the country.
Palast: I don’t know if you got a chance to look at the book. Noam Chomsky says, “It’s scary.” What do you think?
Brown: Absolutely… One of the things I think is that you are great as an investigative journalist around is putting the hard, raw truth out there. And it’s just the truth… I think it reminds me of a couple of things… It reminds me of, one, just the fragility of democracy. .. We think about democracy as, oh, it’ll work itself out. The same way we think about the stock market, right? That the market will take care of itself. That’s not true. Right. And so I think it’s really important that I think it’s, one, exposing the fragility of democracy. Two, I think that we’ve got to be able to recognize we’re in the midst of a pre-fascism stage. And I think some of the things that you raised around Trump and his approach and how he has not been held accountable, those things are extremely scary.
Palast: Well, thank you for that. Now you’ve been working, I understand, with the ACLU of Georgia. Tell me about that.
Brown: One of the things that we’ve been doing, working with the ACLU, is we actually filed a lawsuit. We filed a lawsuit against the state of Georgia, around the postage stamps, not being able to provide the postage stamps for voters. We see that there’s a poll tax. Anything that creates an additional expense for people that have to vote — which should not be the case in America — that becomes a poll tax. Particularly in the midst of a pandemic, thinking through, people will have to go get stamps, the cost of a stamp, particularly when there have been resources set aside… So we’ve been working with ACILU on a number of issues, but one in particular, we filed a lawsuit against the state of Georgia around making sure that the state provides the postage stamps for voters who are sending in their mail-in ballots.
Palast: Well, on mail-in balloting, you know, we have to mail in our votes or we die, right? It’s mail-in or die. But I’m very concerned about the dangers of mail-in voting, that there pitfalls in mail-in ballots. Such as some alligators in that mailbox — and Jim Crow may be in that mailbox. Barbara Arnwine, the great voting rights attorney, has said that mail-in voting in the African American community could be a disaster. That there are particular problems and impediments that people like Brian Kemp of Georgia have put in your way for mail-in voting. What are the particular problems, besides postage, that minority voters face with mail-in voting? We had some in the book.
Brown: I think that there’s two things that I do think we have to be mindful of. We have to be mindful of not giving people a false choice that you either can vote or you got to die. That is just a false choice. And what’s supposed to be a democracy should make sure that we’re providing safe, efficient and effective access to the ballot. We know that that’s not happening, right? We do know, just as you’ve uncovered, that one of the challenges and one of the ways that elections are stolen is through these different processes. But I think that, nevertheless, we’ve got to continue to push and press that there’s multiple ways that we’re looking at in this election cycle, and the multiple ways that people can cast their ballots, free and fair access and that there’s some oversight around this issue as well.
And that’s part of the problem; there’s nobody ever held accountable. And so some of the ways that we’ve seen, some of the things that you’ve uncovered around the way that we’ve been throwing out the ballots around folks names, having particular kinds of names that are part of an algorithm that has an ethnic route, I think that’s been one framework. Another one is getting on election day, what I experienced myself during the primary.
Palast: What happened?
Brown: I was in line for hours waiting because we were told that the machines themselves, the machines that the state of Georgia actually spent over $102 million on — brand new machines — for some reason, once again, they forgot to get the cords for them. They didn’t have enough power cords for them. Once again, these machines that they spent hundreds of million dollars on, they didn’t have the key for, which was actually the code. The poll workers didn’t have a code. So we keep seeing… we’ve got these resources going to these new technologies, but a we’re seeing the same old problems that our community has seen in the past, which we know are all forms of voter suppression.
Palast: Yes, in fact, you have a massive wipe out of voters by Brian Kemp and his successor, the Republican governor, who wiped out over a third of a million voters. Illegally, including Martin Luther King’s 92-year old cousin. I was at the polling station with her in Atlanta when she was thrown out. This matter of if you’re thrown off the voter rolls, then you can’t get your ballot, right? So you have all these voters of color and young people in Georgia who simply aren’t going to get their ballots, ‘cause they don’t know they’ve been removed. What do we do about that?
Brown: I also want to raise another point that we’ve been getting as well… One of the states that we work in is in Kentucky. When we went to Kentucky that morning there were voters that walked up to us — we actually have a copy of the letter — who had always voted Democrat and on the day of the election they get a letter that says they’re ineligible for participating in the Democratic primary because in fact they had voted Republican, And these voters were saying I’ve never registered as a Republican. And this is the day of the election, which means, do you have enough time to correct it?
One of the men that we actually have a video tape of, he said that when he went to vote and he got this information, he had just received this letter, he went to clear it and the line was around the building. So even in Kentucky when they were saying it was seamless, yeah, It went seamless for some, but there were still voter suppression issues. It’s almost like you’re skimming off the top, they’re constantly skimming votes in different ways. There’s a spectrum of how voter suppression happens. And so what we’ve got to do, there’s a couple of things… One, we’ve got to hold people accountable. One of the reasons why I think, Greg, this continues to happen is that nobody’s ever held accountable. Even in the state of Georgia. Essentially he stole the election and he got a promotion, right? And so even the people that are participating in this, at worst, they may get a headline, but they’re not being held accountable. We’ve got to have some strict rules that say when people are tampering, particularly like the secretary of state, there needs to be a recall. They need to be held accountable for this. And there’s some people that got to not only be held accountable in the sense of being put out of office, but there are some people that should face some charges of voter fraud.